SLU: Sustainable Agricultural Production and Food Security

Tapping into the talents of youth for African agriculture

Africa’s lack of agricultural youth adds on to other sustainability challenges such as climate change, rural poverty and food insecurity. However, being the youngest continent, Africa could potentially turn this challenge into opportunities and rejuvenate its agricultural sector.

This is a summary of the plenary session at the workshop ”Youth, Entrepreneurship and African Agriculture”, hosted by SLU Global on the 23rd January 2017, Alnarp.

The agricultural industry in Africa faces many future challenges. Climate change threatens to worsen growing conditions at the same time as the growing population requires more food. But still, many farmers live in poverty and youths, much needed in the agricultural sector, decide to leave rural areas for urban areas.

Africa is the world’s youngest continent and accounts for 19 % of the global youth population. Yet, the average farmer is 55 years old, Steven Carr, an independent consultant who is experienced in community development, explained. The few young individuals who go into farming, often do so because they see agriculture as their only option and not because they want to. Rushongoka Waa- Mpiira, co-founder of the Open Sustainability Institute in Uganda, told a similar story. At the same time, 78 % of Ugandans are below the age of 30, and therefore, involving young people holds a lot of potential for solving many of today’s sustainability issues, such as food insecurity and poverty. Especially in the agricultural sector, great progress can be made, solely by tapping into the resourcefulness of youth, Steven Carr argued.

Creating the environment for agripreneurial success
Ola Möller, Senior Policy Specialist for Agriculture at Sida, explained, that in order to become successful agripreneurs, young people need not only funding but perhaps, more importantly, the right connections, support and network. Also, gender inequality and institutional constraints on issues like property rights need to be addressed, in order to fight poverty and empower youth in the agricultural sector, Möller argued.

Furthermore, universities can be involved in educating young entrepreneurs in agriculture, and thus solve the challenges faced by many farmers. Fred Kabi, Professor at Makerere University, provided us with an example of how students at Makerere University successfully exchanged knowledge with local farmers. The collaboration led to improvements of agricultural methods and enabled a more evidence-based education for the students. This shows Kabi said, that developing partnerships and finding synergies between different stakeholders can raise agricultural productivity and lead to sustainable intensification.

Also, agripreneurship may be an effective way out of poverty, because it enables farmers to produce surpluses for sale and can involve the whole value chain, Steven Carr explained. But far from all agriculture is an agribusiness, Carr continued, many farmers are only able to produce enough to meet the needs of their families. Therefore, it is important to equip future farmers with entrepreneurial skills and make the agricultural sector more attractive to the youth. After all, they are the ones who will feed the world of tomorrow.

If you want to know more about the workshop, check out our website.

Do you study at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU, and want to do an exchange with an African university? Check out these possibilities on the SLU website.